ASSESSMENT OF LIBRARY USER EDUCATION PROGRAMMES IN UNIVERSITIES IN BENUE STATE

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

University libraries support the teaching, learning and research needs of the institutions they serve.  The responsibility of the libraries is to ensure that the use of its information sources, resources and services are maximized to benefit its clientele, hence the need for library use education programmes. In the academic setting, library user education refers to the process of making library patrons learn how to make effective and efficient use of the library system through the acquisition of skills in identification, location, search, retrieval and use of information.

User education encompasses all activity undertaken to help students become efficient users of information, identify the information need, find, evaluate and select the best information to meet that need. Activities to achieve that goal include, library orientation, bibliographic instruction, and library instruction and information literacy. User education has many definitions. Generally defined, library user education programme teaches users how to make the most effective use of the library system. It is designed to provide students with practical knowledge of research techniques and assist students in becoming independent library users.  Face to face teaching is offered at point of need for specific courses and research assignments upon faculty request.  It is also to help the users make the best use of all the library resources.

According to Harrod’s librarians’ glossary (1996) user education is “a program of information provided by libraries to users to enable them make more efficient, independent use of the library’s stock and services which include tours, lecture exercise and the provision of support materials.”  In the concise dictionary of library and information science, user education is defined as “formal education for users and potential users of library and information services, information programmes that show users the resources and services available in a library or information centre so that they can use them effectively.

On the other hand, Gyasi (2008) defines user education as a process that provides a platform where librarians introduce new students to the complexities of university library facilities: familiarize users who have little or no information seeking skills at all with a broad range of library resources in order to develop library skills and educate them on how to find materials using library catalogues, subject indexes, CD – ROM and the internet, while Husen (1985) opined that user education represents an attempt by librarians to teach students on how to locate and use information effectively. It means users need to acquire skills in identifying the purpose of information, the location of information and the use of information. It does not only teach the student on how to learn through effective use of information in books, journals, newspapers, audio visual soft ware and people. It instructs students on how to locate information in the university library. With the explosion of information on a daily basis, the availability of a range of books and non-books materials in different subjects, there is need for students to acquire sufficient knowledge, skills and ability to discriminate and select needed and relevant information.

According to Herring (1987) User education concentrates more on teaching the students location skills which enables him to use the library catalogue, searching by author, by title or more importantly by subject and to use the indexes.  He goes further to say that teachers and librarians underrate alphabetical skills but these alphabetical skills need to be acquired by the students.  The student needs not only the ability to locate materials but also the skills in understanding about information required.  The students should be able to think out their need for information. For instance, in writing a project, the student has to identify topic and every other aspect of the topic including the key words before setting out on a search for information.

In user education, study skills are relevant to the use of information and it includes the students’ ability to extract relevant information from what they read, look at or listen to.  The skill of identifying relevant information and scanning skills and the skill of relating new knowledge acquired to knowledge already possessed.  Therefore, information skills, which include the skills of identifying purpose, the location and the use of information, will now form the basis of library users education programmes in the university. This education is not only important in library but will provide the student with the skills needed for a life-long learning. From the definitions cited above, user education is all about empowering new students with knowledge and skills to enable them make judicious use of resources available in the university library.

Some of the importance of Library User Education include that user education prepares users to become efficient and self-reliant users of the library resources and services.  It has been said that one will be mentally more powerful if one concentrates on how to find knowledge rather than try to remember everything one has learned.  It has been widely recognized that the ability to use information is extremely important in today’s society and will continue to become more so.

Osagic (2003) highlighted reasons why user education becomes imperative in tertiary institutions.  These include rapid growth of published materials, change in methods of teaching and course content, lack of awareness of library services and facilities.  Others include users ignorance coupled with the fact that students come from diverse background and culture.  According to Nithyananam, K. et al (2006) library user education helps publicize library services and information resources; it improves the image of the library, lack of being able to find necessary information delays research and lack of awareness of information leads to duplication of effort. 

According to Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL) information hand (2004) Chicago, user education forms the basis for life long learning which is common to all disciplines, to all learning enlightenment and to all levels of education.  It also enables learners to master content and extend their investigations and become more self-directed and assume greater control over their own learning.  Agyen – Ayasi (2008) outlines the objectives of library user Education as follows:  introduce students to facilitates and resources in the library, develop library skills, make students independent users and learners in the library, establish the library as the centre of academic activity, provide basic understanding of the library so that users can make efficient use of library materials and services and educate users about information sources and resources and how to exploit such resources effectively and efficiently.

As libraries have become more complex, the need for instruction on how to use the resources they offer has grown. Education of library users occurs at many levels and in many formats which include: library orientation, library instruction, bibliographic instruction, and information literacy. Library orientation also known as user orientation include tours guides, aids and notices. Mohammed (2002) described library orientation as guided tour intended to familiarize students with the physical layout of the library building and location of its resources and services.  It is given at the beginning of every academic year to first year students.

 Is a type of user education programme given to users to help them make the best use of the library in handling their information needs. It also includes introduction to the use of catalogues and instruction given on the use of abstracts, indexes, bibliographies and reference books. Library instruction, according to Fjallbrant (1984), is an umbrella term incorporating study skills, learning skills, communication skills as well as library skills.

Bibliographic instruction is an information service to a group, which is designed to teach library users how to locate information efficiently (ALA, 1983). The essential goals of this process are an understanding of the library’s system of organization and the ability to use selected reference materials. In addition, instruction may cover the structure of the literature and the general specific research methodology appropriate for a discipline.  At the end users should be able to organize and retrieve information on their own. It teaches users how to develop and use a search strategy.  The user can identify useful information from information sources.

 Information literacy is the ability of a user to access and evaluate information effectively for problem solving and decision making. It seeks to prepare people to pursue the concept of life long learning. American Library Association (1989) defined information literacy as a set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, interpret and use effectively the needed information”. Information literacy is important especially now with uncertain quality and expanding quantity of information resources. Users need superior abilities necessary to use information effectively and efficiently.

Library user education is necessary in the university because of the need for the student to engage in independent studies, students require to be taught that ability; only then will they be able to learn on their own. To be able to navigate through the quantity of materials to be searched in various disciplines, the student should be helped. Without this programme the student will be unable to make effective use of the information that is available and useful to him. However, it appears that the effectiveness of the user education programme is in doubt especially in the university libraries in Benue State. It is for this reason that this study is set to assess the user education programme in university libraries in the state. In order to ensure that students acquire adequate training to enable them make effective and efficient use of the information available and useful to them a careful assessment should be done on the present situation of library user education programme in the university libraries in Benue State.

Assessment according to Umenwa (2010) is a judgment about something based on an understanding of the situation. It could also mean a calculation of the value of something. Assessment is an essential aspect of the library operation in that it seeks to know how effective the library is serving the needs of its users. The library needs to evaluate her service delivery and incorporate new knowledge, skills and approaches into future service delivery. This is to make for improvement of future services. Assessment in the library provides insight into the perceptions and needs of the information users and reveals trends in service delivery and instruction.

            The success of efforts at library user education depends not only on how well the programme works, but also on how well it is received by its intended users, which is reflected in users’ attitude towards it. Attitude of a student towards a particular subject can affect his interest, behaviour and even his final performance in the long run. This study explores the response and readiness of students to library user education.  As far as previous studies are concerned, some student have positive attitude toward user education while some have negative attitude towards it. Highly positive results were achieved from Ojo–Igbinoba’s (1991) research on the usefulness of library instruction classes.

The University of Agriculture, Makurdi in North-central Nigeria was established in 1988. The university aims at providing prompt solutions to practical problems, raising farm output and incomes and accelerating the drive towards national food self-sufficiency. Specifically, UNIAGRIC, Makurdi has been established to generate new high yielding agricultural technologies that are sufficiently adapted and relevant to specific local environments; bring to the attention of agricultural researchers pressing problems on farmers’ fields with minimum delay and finally train needed manpower that is consistent with the requirements of an integrated research extension system.

The University of Agriculture libraries consist of Francis S. Idachaba library, College of Veterinary Medicine Library, College of Science and College of Food Science and Technology. The other libraries are that of College of Engineering and College of Agricultural Economics and Extension. It is hoped very soon all the colleges in the university will have their libraries to provide resources and services to support the information needs and research programmes of staff and students.

      The Francis S. Idachaba library established in 1988 functions as the main library in the university libraries system. It is located on the main campus of UNIAGRIC Makurdi and sits at the North core a short distance from the senate building. It has its history dating back from 1981 when it was established as the library of the defunct Federal University of Technology Makurdi. In 1983, when the Federal University of Technology was merged with the University of Jos, the library became a branch of University of Jos Library Makurdi Campus. It inherited the library resources and facilitates of the old campus.

      Collectively, the university libraries hold over 36,028 books, about 555 current foreign journals and 212 local journals. Holdings of government documents, conference/seminar papers, audio/visual materials, computer file, manuscripts, archives, maps and microforms amount to a good number. In addition, the library possesses over 170 wired and wireless computers with Vsat and Internet facilities. It is connected to external libraries such as Nigeria Virtual Library, Ebscohost, HINARI, AGORA and OARE.

Benue State University was founded in 1992 by the Benue State government to augment the specialized academic offerings of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi. The university began with four colleges, Arts, Education Science and Social Sciences. Presently Benue State University has seven colleges; Arts, Health Science, Education, Law, Management Science, Science and Social Science. The Benue State University library founded in 1992 consists of the main library, the post graduate library, law library, medical library and the virtual library.

The main library is located in the centre of the main campus while the others are attached to the various college buildings. At inception the library had about 600 volumes of books and 200 journals. Presently all the libraries hold over 22,000 volumes of books.  They subscribe to 106 Nigerian journals and 26 foreign journals. The university library maintains a comprehensive selection of works by Nigerian authors. Archives of local and foreign conferences reports are collected as well as a selection of federal and state government gazettes and Benue state House of Assembly proceedings. The law library holds local legal materials, reproductions of vital out of print legal reports and some foreign journals.

In these libraries, the available library user education programme include library orientations for freshmen, bibliographic in students on the use of library, resources and guided tours. However the effectiveness of these programme is yet to be assessed, hence the need for this study.

Statement of the Problem

Library user education programmes are necessary for all users especially the fresh men because it involves instruction on how to access and use information resources available in the library. User education can help users develop skills necessary for research and life long learning and to make maximum use of library resources as well as create awareness of the library resources available to them. With the explosion of information on a daily basic, the user needs sufficient knowledge and ability to navigate and select needed and relevant information.

ASSESSMENT OF LIBRARY USER EDUCATION PROGRAMMES IN UNIVERSITIES IN BENUE STATE